An Indian hero and her Pakistani counterpart have come together for the very first time as part of a mission to tackle the coronavirus pandemic.
Who is uniting them in this quest? The US Embassy in India.
But this is no real-life task force. It is the latest offering from the world of augmented-reality comic books.
Priya's Mask is the fourth adventure in the popular series centred around Priya, India's first female comic-book hero. The series has racked up more than 26 million downloads since it first launched, with storylines that take aim at weighty social issues, such as gender-based violence and human trafficking.
The latest adventure sees Priya team up with Jiya, a popular character from Pakistani cartoon show Burka Avenger.
As well as being an AR comic, Priya's Mask was also released as a film on Wednesday, December 2, with Bollywood stars Vidya Balan and Mrunal Thakur among those lending their voices to the project. Bafta winner Rosanna Arquette, meanwhile, provides voiceovers for an international version.
“The animation, apart from being a nod to caregivers globally, carries a strong message of solidarity, so it was an easy yes for me," said Balan, who narrates Priya's flying tiger Sahas.
Priya, who made her comic-book debut in 2014, is the brainchild of New York author Ram Devineni, while Jiya is the creation of Pakistan pop star Haroon Rashid, who launched Burka Avenger in 2013.
Set against the backdrop of Jodhpur, India, Priya's Mask focuses on the important role of frontline healthcare workers, using the mother of an 8-year-old child as an example. The story also hones in on the danger of spreading misinformation about the coronavirus.
Before the pandemic began, Devineni was intending to focus Priya's latest series on the issue of honour killings in India.
"We still plan to work on an edition focused on this, but everything has been overturned by Covid-19," he tells The National. "Our team felt that the pandemic and its repercussions on women around the world was a critical topic to focus on."
He had been aware of "the amazing" Burka Avenger for some time, and felt compelled to include her in Priya's Mask.
"There are some obvious correlations – both are female superheroes who fight for women’s rights," Devineni says. "Also, the virus does not respect borders, so it was important that two female superheroes come together to fight. The US Embassy in New Delhi helped arrange the meeting and it has been a pleasure working with them."
While admitting the pandemic did create some obstacles when it came to creating the latest series, Devineni says it was a fulfilling experience.
"The mere fact we could produce and release something so quickly is a testament to the times," he says. "All of our comics involve extensive research and interviews with survivors, but that has been very difficult to do because of travel restrictions and lockdowns."
Thakur, who voices Priya, adds that working on the film helped her achieve a lifelong dream of spreading awareness around social issues.
"Characters like Priya and Sahas are putting forth the message of how we need the world to become a more inclusive place to live in," she says.
"I want to tell the children of frontline workers that even though their parents aren't wearing capes, they are heroes in their own ways."